Garrison v. Mich. Dept. of Corrections — Prisoner Freedom of Religion Claim

Well, not exactly. The petitioner is a prisoner, a practioner of something called the “Native American Traditional Ways religion,” but the Sixth Circuit’s opinion is mostly about whether or not the petitioner’s claim should be dismissed for fraud.

An excerpt:

Michael Garrison, Eric Boylan, and Robert Walker appeal from an order dismissing their civil rights complaint. Garrison and four other Michigan prisoners filed a joint pro se action in district court alleging that prison officials had placed unnecessary restrictions on the prisoners’ religious practice in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1-cc-5. The prisoners requested, and were denied, appointed counsel. The district court later discovered that Garrison was filing papers that had been previously signed in blank by his co-plaintiffs. The co-plaintiffs left the signed, blank papers for Garrison to use in conducting the litigation. The district court regarded the use of papers signed in blank as fraud. The court dismissed the action without prejudice and applied various sanctions. Because counsel will only be appointed in a civil case in exceptional circumstances, the district court acted within its discretion in denying appointment of counsel. The district court also acted within its discretion when it dismissed the case without prejudice due to the improper nature of some of the filings. However, we vacate the dismissal order to the extent that it applies further sanctions because the record does not sufficiently indicate that Garrison and his co-plaintiffs acted in bad faith.